The Nittany Lions travel to Champagne-Urbana this weekend to take on the Fighting Illini of Illinois. See how the VictoryBellRings.com staff thinks this game will shake out.
Matt de Bear:
Penn State gets out to a big first half lead on the Illini, and never looks back. Bill Belton’s return to the offense fuels a strong rushing attack, and McGloin continues to emerge as one of the top QBs in the Big 10 with another strong, if not spectacular performance. Mike Mauti leads an aggressive defense in forcing 3 more turnovers, and frustrating whatever Illinois QB the “culture vultures” settle on. The only sign of Illinois’ Nittany Apartment camp out comes after the final whistle where O’Brien and Beckman exchange a handshake that Bill Belichick and Eric Mangini think is cold.
Penn State should get some reinforcements this weekend with the return of RBs Bill Belton and Derek Day and offensive tackle Donovan Smith. Matt McGloin is going for his second consecutive 300-yard passing game and Allen Robinson is looking to stay atop the conference leaders in receptions and touchdowns. The Fighting Illini are poised to get dual-threat QB Nathan Scheelhaase back for this game. He will likely split reps with Reilly O’Toole.
The Illini points for and against in their wins and losses provides an interesting insight into this game with Penn State. In Illinois’ 2 wins, they have scored an average of 34 points and given up an average of 3.5 points (not a typo!). But, in their 2 losses, they only managed to score an average of 17 points while giving up an unreal 48.5 points.
Look for Penn State to use the pass to set up the run. Matt McGloin will throw for 250 yards and 2 scores, while the tandem of Belton, Day, and Zordich get Penn State another 100-yard rushing effort and rushing touchdown. Neither team has played a complete 60 minutes in a facets of the game (offense, defense, an special teams), but Penn State seems to be jelling while Illinois seems to be adrift. This is a game Penn State needs to win this game! A win can set them up for a run at 7-8 wins on the season, but a loss will give the Nittany Nation pause as to whether the Lions can get to 5 wins. In the end, Penn State gets the emotional victory, feeding off of the Illini off-season poaching scandal to provide extra motivation.
I’ve been driving this Matt McGloin bandwagon for a few weeks now so let’s take it a bit further. Penn State wins this game because of Matt McGloin. Illinois has struggled mightily against the pass this season and Bill O’Brien will unleash his senior quarterback on the porous Illini secondary. The return of Bill Belton will be nice but unnecessary. Expect a big day out of ARob and a couple tight ends.
The defense holds down the Illinois rushing game and keeps constant pressure on the opposing quarterbacks. Penn State continues the streak of playing complete games and Penn State starts Big Ten play 1-0.
Penn State travels to Champaign to take on the Fighting Illini in their Big Ten opener. The big storyline this week is how Tim Beckman, the Illinois head coach, sent a significant number of people from his staff to State College to recruit Penn State players once the sanctions were handed down in July. I expect the Nittany Lions to use that as fuel and ride the momentum they’ve gathered from the last two games and come out strong against Illinois. Also, it looks like Penn State will be getting Bill Belton, Derek Day, Donovan Smith and Sean Stanley back from injury. However, both Illinois quarterbacks, Nathan Scheelhaase and Reilly O’Toole, are dual-threats and that scares me because Penn State has had trouble with dual-threat quarterbacks recently. The Illinois defensive line is also very good. I think this game will go right down to the wire but the fact that it’s a Big Ten road game gives me the uneasy feeling that Penn State will fall just short at the end.
I was frankly shocked by the La Tech-Illinois game. If Scheelhaase is healthy, he has the potential to cause problems for PSU’s defense. However, Allen Robinson will be impossible for Illinois’ lousy secondary to shut down. I do expect a close game but in the end, we will be happy.
Penn State’s defense overwhelms the Illini offense forcing 3 turnovers, which leads to some prime scoring opportunities for the offense. The offense continues progressing this week doing a better job capitalizing on good field position and scoring touchdowns once in the red zone. Matt McGloin, who is the only QB in Penn State history to throw for 300 yards in back to back games, throws for over 300 yards and completes this feat once again.
Illinois didn’t mean to make a statement when it sent what seemed like their entire staff to State College to recruit one third-string player, and Coach O’Brien took the high road this week during media interviews, holding back when asked if he was irritated by it. While I expect it to be a clean game, I also expect B.O’B. and the team to come out firing on Saturday. With the teams trending in opposite directions, I see Penn State coming out of Memorial Stadium with a win. The defense has been focusing on the quick outside throws and is currently playing at a high level. With Bill Belton back — though maybe not 100% — I think you’ll see some receptions out of the backfield and a fairly balanced game-plan. Another big day for the McGloin to Robinson connection.